Human Exceptionalism

Chimps are Vicious Killers

Animal rights activists and others sometimes act as if chimpanzees and bonobos are somehow better than humans, not violent like us.

That was certainly the implication of studies conducted to determine if chimp violence was our fault. Nope. They are vicious killers–not only of prey like monkeys–but each other. From the New York Times story:

Are chimpanzees naturally violent to one another, or has the intrusion of humans into their environment made them aggressive? A new study, published Wednesday in Nature, is setting off a new round of debate around this question. The study’s authors argue that a review of all known cases when chimpanzees or bonobos in Africa killed members of their own species shows that violence is a natural part of chimp behavior and not the result of actions by humans that push chimp aggression to lethal attacks.

The researchers say their analysis supports the idea that warlike violence in chimps is a natural behavior that evolved because it can provide more resources or territory to the killers, at little risk. Critics say the data shows no such thing, largely because the measures of human impact on chimpanzees are inadequate.

Methinks the critics want it to be our fault as that would promote the anti-humanism we see among some chimp boosters, such as blatant anthropomorphist, Jane Goodall.

Don’t get me wrong. Chimp violence isn’t wrong behavior. It isn’t immoral. Chimps can’t act “right” or “wrong.” They are not moral beings. That is beyond their capacities. 

Only humans possess moral agency. That is one of the factors that make us exceptional. And that is why we cast harsh aspersions on those among us–as we should–who act as viciously as chimps or bonobos. 

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